I spent the first part of this week up in Maine. I am incredibly lucky that my grandparents got tired of traveling around at the Army’s whim and bought an old inn in Five Islands, Maine in the late ‘60’s at which to spend their summers. The harbor is full of lobster boats and the early hours of the morning are filled with gulls calling and diesels coughing, both looking for today’s catch. At 5:45 this morning I woke up to the sun streaming into my eyes and the gulls cackling in my ears. I knew I needed to get out early in order to run a few hours before the hot, humid weather that has been unrelenting this summer made it unbearable, so I crawled out of bed. Armed with my fancy fuel belt full of water and a couple sticky Chomps I headed out the door. Route 127 is a winding, rolling coastal route with little to no shoulder that runs out along Georgetown Island to the Route 1 bridge in Bath. It rolls up and down past the various harbors, bays and inlets that connect the Sheepscot and Kennebunk River. It is a beautiful place to run.
The first 10 miles rolled along with little traffic and a pretty good pace. Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and to get through today I kept repeating, “It’s just two tens…” but it’s not really. Just like the halfway point in a marathon or any long distance isn’t really half way. As the miles behind you increase, the remaining miles get exponentially harder. Two tens would be fantastic if they didn’t follow each other. The second ten miles is always going to include the fatigue and strain from the first ten. We train in order to build the muscle strength and memory required to get through the fatigue and on to the finish. Every middle distance, midweek run is building towards a more solid long run and the ability to finish a distance not previously run. Increasing what we run increases what we have the ability to run. Last week everything hurt at 13, this week it was 15. Endurance, like anything, needs to be built up slowly.
After running my Father asked me to take the little boat that I learned to sail on around to the boat ramp to haul it out. Though it’s not more than 10 miles to the boat ramp the trip around runs through some pretty strong tidal rips and narrow bays. I always remember a particularly bad trip from when I was very young and we were sailing the boat around. We must have timed the tide wrong and not checked the weather because when we rounded the corner for halfway we sailed straight into a building southerly and ebbing tide that prevented us from making any windward progress. My father was a pretty new sailor and the weather was more than we had seen up to that point. Thinking back now we did everything wrong. Our experience with the boat and sailing was limited. They say there are few things more dangerous than a sailor that knows a little! Like running, we get better at things the more we do them. Experience is key. Just like runners need to build muscle memory, sailors need to build tiller time. Mistakes are the best teachers. Heading out the door without enough water (for a run) or without checking the tide (in sailing) can have a massive effect on the outcome of the day.
Taking the boat around to the launch this time seemed like a walk in the park. A few years, plenty of experiences and just a few mistakes have made me into a boat captain with 80,000+ sea miles. As I rounded the corner with a full running behind me I watched a small sail boat tacking it’s way out of Robinhood Marine. They were not making any forward progress, the tide was against them and the wind was light. It reminded me that there are always going to be people who are just starting out. Starting to run starts with a few steps, starting to sail starts with a few frustrating days on the water. But what’s important is that we keep moving forward. In the case of trying to make way against an incoming tide, however, move backwards, go back to the dock and wait it out!
A 20 miler is never easy. It gets less painful with proper training and gradual increase of miles. No matter what your long distance is right now, it’s probably going to hurt because it is more than you have done before. Amazingly, though, our muscles adapt and get stronger. Human physiology proves that we are made for running. We sweat instead of pant and we have lots of sweat glands, more than we would need otherwise. Our joints and limbs can take more impact and shock than required for a species that just walks. The body is a pretty incredible thing and though nothing in my body felt incredible for a day or so after the run, it will be stronger next time.
So go a little further than usual this weekend and take in the view as you do!